ISLAMABAD: The local government (LG) elections in the federal capital have been postponed, for a couple of months as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has expressed willingness to complete delimitation of 101 union councils (UCs). The demand for this was raised by major political parties including PML-N, PPP and PTI.
Identical petitions filed by these parties urged the ECP to fulfill its statutory obligations described under sections 5, 6 and 7 of the Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government Act, 2015.
The election schedule for 50 UCs was announced and notified by the ECP on the basis of notification, dated Oct 19, 2015, issued by the federal government. The notification was, however, withdrawn by the government on May 18, 2021.
The ECP was informed by the government vide office memorandum, dated May 21, 2022 that the cabinet had approved the number of UCs to be 101.
Commission to complete delimitation of 101 union councils in line with political parties’ demand
“The Court had referred the matter for consideration of the ECP because it, prima-facie, appeared that the election schedule could only have been issued pursuant to publication of notification under sub section (1) of section 6 of the Act of 2015. The determination of Union Councils as 101, made by the Federal Government was to be acted upon followed by the procedure described under sections 5 and 7 of the Act of 2015”, the court order observed.
The court noted that Article 140 (A) explicitly states that the local government system shall be established and the local administrative and financial responsibility and authority shall be devolved to the elected representatives of the local governments. Sub Article (2) makes it a constitutional obligation of the ECP to hold the local government elections.
However, the elections are to be held in consonance with the scheme described under the Act of 2015.
ECP in its report stated, “The Commission deliberated and decided to conduct fresh delimitation upon 101 newly constituted Union Councils by the Federal Government.”
It is pertinent to mention here that the commission has already completed the process of delimitation thrice in ICT for conduct of the elections. However, every time this has been done, tactics have been used to change the law through promulgation of Ordinance. It is the duty of the commission to conduct local government elections within 120 days after the expiry of the councils.
Directions have been issued by the August Supreme Court of Pakistan and Islamabad High Court (IHC) for conduct of elections in ICT and all the provinces as early as possible and delay would be against the spirit of the constitution and orders of the court.
ECP has directed the federal government not to make further changes in law and number of councils as further delay in election not only involves the loss of public exchequer but was also a violation of the Command of Constitution and Law and the judgment of the apex Court which requires such election to be within the time frame of 120 days.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah observed that the decision taken by the commission is definitely in consonance with the scheme of the Act of 2015. The grievances of the petitioners have been redressed.
The court has directed the government and all other organs of the state to assist and facilitate the commission in fulfilling its obligations.
The court expects that the commission would complete the process of delimitation of 101 UCs within the period specified under section 7 of the Act of 2015 (65 days). Thereafter, without delay, the commission would be further expected to announce the election schedule and hold the elections in a fair and transparent manner.
In case, the government fails in its duty to assist the commission in completing the process, then it shall be at liberty to file an application for restoration of these petitions.
Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2022